Satellite 5G boost as SES-20 and SES-21 launches confirmed

As part of its plan to continue delivering network services while freeing up C-band spectrum to enable the deployment of 5G across the US, satellite operator SES has announced the successful launch of its SES-20 and SES-21 craft

Despite the devastation that was wreaked by Hurricane Ian over the US state of Florida, satellite operator SES has been able to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 5.36pm local time on 4 October the SES-20 and SES-21 C-band satellites to enable it to continue delivering critical network communications services across the US.

The launches are part of a broader Federal Communications Commission (FCC) programme to clear a portion of C-band spectrum to enable wireless operators to deploy 5G services across the contiguous US (CONUS). In response to this mandate from the FCC, satellite operators such as SES are required to transition their existing services from the lower 300MHz to the upper 200MHz of C-band spectrum to make room for 5G.

Carried into orbit by the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket, the two Boeing-built satellites are designed to operate in the 103 degrees west and 131 degrees west orbital slots and are expected to begin operations in November 2022. SES-20 and SES-21 are the second and third C-band satellites SES has launched as part of its effort to free up the lower 300MHz of C-band spectrum across the US by December 2023 while maintaining uninterrupted services. The first C-band satellite, SES-22, was launched on 29 June 2022.

“We’re excited to support our commercial partner SES in their C-band transition efforts to meet the FCC’s objective to deploy 5G service across the US. Their mission aligns with our mission to connect the world, and these capabilities will enable uninterrupted commercial services to many Americans,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice-president of government and commercial programmes.

“The Atlas V delivered the satellites accurately to a near-geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles (35,888km) above the equator. Thank you to the ULA team and our partners for ensuring the successful delivery of this multi-payload mission to orbit,” he added.

Ryan Reid, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International, said: “Our unique dual-launch configuration was again successful on this mission. That coupled with the ULA Atlas V’s ability to achieve an advantageous orbit enables SES to get these satellites into service in a matter of weeks. We appreciate the faith SES has put in our industry team to make that happen.”

Steve Collar, CEO of SES, said: “The successful launch of SES-20 and SES-21 will allow us to support our customers in delivering high-quality sports and entertainment to tens of millions of US households while delivering on our promise to repurpose spectrum to enable US leadership in 5G. The second phase of our US C-band clearing activities is fully on track and we are grateful for the hard work of our partners at Boeing and ULA.”

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